Friday, October 12, 2007

Mad Monster Party? – review

Directed by: Jules Bass

Release Date: 1967

Contains spoilers

This is a 1960s animation monster mash, which has the distinction of being cited by Tim Burton as a great influence plus the voice of Bois Karloff. It was animated using the animagic stop motion technique.

Dr Boris Von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has his castle on Evil Island and is the head of the Worldwide Organisation of Monsters. Having come up with his newest invention, a formula that destroys matter (with a resultant mushroom cloud), he has his assistant Francesca (Gale Garnett) send out messenger bats to the monsters of the world – he is going to host a convention.

Felix Flanken (Allen Swift, who does most of the voices and should be taken as the voice actor if one is not mentioned) is an inept pharmacist with allergies and he receives an invitation – believing it to be the equivalent of a Caribbean cruise. The reason this human klutz has been invited? It transpires that he is Frankenstein’s nephew and the bad Doctor intends to retire and pass control of the organisation and his secrets to Felix.

The monsters, and Felix, all head to the island – with Felix due to arrive the day after the monsters. All that is accept ‘It’, who has not been invited and I won’t spoil who ‘It’ is. We get the full range of monsters, Dracula, the Mummy, Jekyll & Hyde, the Wolfman plus other familiar faces. Already on the island are the monster and his mate (Phyliss Diller).

When Francesca hears about Felix she arranges with Dracula to have him killed so that she, as the Doctor’s most perfect creation, will get his secrets and share them with Dracula. This leads to assassination attempts foiled by Felix’s inherent ineptness. Having been double crossed by Dracula, the Monster and his mate, Francesca summons ‘It’ to the island. During the double cross her life is saved by Felix and she realises that she is in love with him.

Dracula is a major character in this, possessing the ability to turn into a bat and having perma-fangs. In keeping with the feel of the movie and its madcap nature, he is somewhat inept himself.

This is probably where the movie fails slightly; the action is madcap and, essentially, animated slapstick peppered with bad puns. Whilst children orientated it doesn’t possess the adult nuances that perhaps an equivalent production would aim for now. That’s not to say that it isn’t fun but some of the puns and slapstick moments are groan worthy rather than funny. The plot is pure monster mash and, to be fair, nothing is too demanding or surprising.

The main aspect I felt had not aged too well was the songs, which became, to me, tedious, though the one featuring Karloff is worthy for curio value is nothing else.

I liked the animation, it had a retro-chic to it and we can see in the almost proto-type Jessica Rabbit proportions of Francesca that imprinting male fantasy onto animation characters was not just the province of more modern animations.

Over all an undemanding experience, that probably does a lot more for the viewer if they saw it as a kid. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Chick Young said...

I gotta go 10 out of 10. I saw it as a kid - left an indelible imprint on me. LOVE the music and Francesca. You and I are the same age, so you KNOW how damned nostalgic we can get for our media related "wombs" so to speak. I like to crawl back into this one frequently! In fact, it's due for a GONE TO BED column over at my blog. Cheers.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Chick, exactly why I said "probably does a lot more for the viewer if they saw it as a kid."

Its astounding how much something we loved as a kid indelibly stamps upon our psyche and our hearts.

Take Flash Gordon, generally a garbage, albeit fun, film and yet I always watch it when its on TV and I can recite the script along all the way through. I loved it as a kid and it stayed with me. Jason and the Argonauts is another and the Frank Langella version of Dracula is another (which is the film that made me fall in love with vampires)

When I watched Mad Monster Party I actually felt that I wished I had seen it as a kid as I could recognise in it just how nostalgic it would have made me.

Look forward to the column when it’s done.

Chick Young said...

Oh Yes, I saw your comment regarding watching it as a child and thought that I would add a bit of living proof to your conjecture that it was a more resonant text if originally viewed as a youngster.

Badham's Dracula is a GREAT film, I so agree. It was Hammer's own "Horror of Dracula" that forever changed my life. I was 5 at the time. 1975, alone and watching something I shouldn't have been watching... Rest is history.

Aand by the way. YOU ARE A MACHINE! How do you put out such substantive and insightful reviews with such regularity. I'm a professor of media studies, finishing my doctorate and don't have time for ANYTHING. I blog just to chill from time to time. So, please keep up the amazing work - I will continue to leave comments here and there. All the best...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

"And by the way. YOU ARE A MACHINE!"

LOL - I sometimes wonder myself. Truth be told I have little in the way of a life lol - just kidding, but to relax of an evening I ike to watch a film, so I normally pick a vampire one - the write up just comes easily. I probably will have to slow the blog down at some point (I'm not getting a huge amount of work done on my next novel) but for now I just enjoy it.